Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Sustainability

Volume

11

Issue

18

Publisher

M D P I AG

Publication Date

9-17-2019

Keywords

water stress, maize, irrigation, phenology, chlorophyll content

First Page

1

Last Page

18

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Abstract

In this study, we investigated the effects of water stress on the growth and yield of summer maize (Zea mays L.) over four phenological stages: Seedling, jointing, heading, and grain-filling. Water stress treatments were applied during each of these four stages in a water-controlled field in the Guanzhong Plain, China between 2013 and 2016. We found that severe water stress during the seedling stage had a greater effect on the growth and development of maize than stress applied during the other three stages. Water stress led to lower leaf area index (LAI) and biomass owing to reduced intercepted photosynthetically active radiation (IPAR) and radiation-use efficiency (RUE). These effects extended to the reproductive stage and eventually reduced the unit kernel weight and yield. In addition, the chlorophyll content in the leaf remained lower, even though irrigation was applied partially or fully after the seedling stage. Severe and prolonged water stress in maize plants during the seedling stage may damage the structure of the photosynthetic membrane, resulting in lower chlorophyll content, and therefore RUE, than those in the plants that did not experience water stress at the seedling stage. Maize plants with such damage did not show a meaningful recovery even when irrigation levels during the rest of the growth period were the same as those applied to the plants not subjected to water stress. The results of our field experiments suggest that an unrecoverable yield loss could occur if summer maize were exposed to severe and extended water stress events during the seedling stage.

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